Laurier Aboriginal Program Council established

The Aboriginal population in Canada is growing at a pace of three times the national average, resulting in more young people accessing the post-secondary education system. To provide the necessary support and programming for these new students, Wilfrid Laurier University has created the Aboriginal Education Council (AEC).

“I think that if we can do anything at all to engage our Aboriginal friends in post-secondary education, it’s just a good thing to be doing,” said Max Blouw, president of WLU and co-chair of the AEC.

Blouw went on to explain that the AEC will develop programs to respond to the needs of students coming out of under-represented communities or those who are the first generation in their families to attend university.

Having this type of council will also help Laurier access more grant opportunities to fund future initiatives. The school has already received close to $150,000 over a two-year period from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to support existing recruitment and retention programs for Aboriginal students.

“These students will have a specific needs and interests from the universities as they get in to them,” said Deborah MacLatchy, vice-president academic at WLU.

Laurier is not the only school to be making changes to accommodate the influx of Aboriginal students.

“This is a cross country, pan-university, pan-college need to increase accessibly for Aboriginal students and to meet that need,” MacLatchy explained, noting that establishing a council was Laurier’s approach to the issue. “We have an important role in ensuring that university is accessible to First Nations students.”

The AEC, which also addresses Laurier’s academic plan to promote diversity, will incorporate a variety of members from both the university and community to respond to any concerns and new opportunities.

Blouw went on to explain, “Having members on this committee from Waterloo, Kitchener [and] Brantford are important specifically for that purpose.”

In the long term, Blouw anticipates the council to promote academic success among more student groups.

“My sense of the situation is that we will be talking about those things that are really systemically important to ensure that a minority group can be successful in a institution that has a number of majority groups,” Blouw said.